Reading in translation: getting a global perspective

Gaining insight into other cultures and perspectives is one of the things I most enjoy about reading. And, of course, books can be therapeutic too. Susan Chira’s recent New York Times article, In Trying Times, the Balm of Jane Austen, rings true.

Returning to old favourites and the reassuring stability of the classics can be just what you need when times are tough, so it isn’t surprising that bibliotherapy is growing in popularity. After all, many of us need some sort of escapism when the world seems to be getting more turbulent by the day.

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An Alaskan Escape and an American Dream

 alaska-1Alaska photo courtesy of Alejandro Gonzalez

It’s been a while since I talked about books here on the blog. But I always have a book on the go — it’s my way to wind down after a busy day.

My current read is Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers. I was introduced to his writing last year by a colleague who loaned me The Circle, Eggers’ dystopian fiction book about a futuristic tech company which starts to infiltrate the lives of its employees to a disturbing degree. For a full review, check out my post: Books I Read in September.

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Mystery and thrills in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Barcelona

Continuing with the Spanish theme of the last three posts on my blog, The Shadow of the Wind is a novel set in mid-twentieth century Barcelona. In the middle of the old city of Barcelona is a ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a library with winding passages and corridors so hard to find again that you must leave a trail as though journeying into the heart of the Minotaur’s den.

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When Daniel is ten years old, his father takes him to choose one book from this mysterious labyrinth of a library. He picks an obscure title, La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Julián Carax. As Daniel grows up, he tries to find more titles by Carax, but he cannot find a single one. There are reports of a strange man who calls himself Lain Coubert — the name of the devil in Carax’s novel — who is going around the city asking for Carax’s books to burn.

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What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?

If you didn’t know me, you could tell a lot about me by looking at the bookshelf in my room. I read lots of books, averaging one every 10 days or so, and many of the ones I’ve read aren’t on my bookshelf. This particular bookshelf is a space for books that I want to keep and books that have childhood memories attached to them.

Looking at my bookshelf, you’d be able to tell that I grew up in the Harry Potter generation. Much of my childhood and early teen years were spent eagerly awaiting the publication of the next installment in the series. My copies of those seven great books have been much-read and are showing signs of wear, with some covers a little creased.

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Trespassing Across America

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Something that fascinates me about America is the fact that there is more land without people than there is with people. It’s easy to get bogged down in the mire of the ever-raging political battles and America’s position on the global stage, but the true spirit of the U.S. lies in its uninhabited wild spaces.

But despite being wild and open, much of the privately-owned land is not open to hikers. When Ken Ilgunas set out on a 1700-mile walk from Alberta to Texas in 2012, following the proposed route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, most of his journey took him across “No Trespassing” land.

As Ilgunas explains, walking across wild America is difficult unless you’re either in a national park or on a trail approved by the government — “In America, the so-called freest country on earth, no one really has the right to roam” (Ilgunas, 2016).

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The Longest Night – a novel by Andria Williams

The Longest Night coverBased on the only fatal nuclear accident to happen in the United States, The Longest Night is an engrossing novel set in the late 1950s in a remote military town in Idaho. It follows a young couple, Paul and Natalie (Nat for short), as they adjust to their new life in the town. Paul is part of the Army Specialist team overseeing the CR-1, one of the first nuclear reactors in the USA. At first, their lives are full of promise. They’re chasing the American Dream and life is sweet.

But Nat struggles with the loneliness of being in the house all day, every day, in a small town miles from anywhere. She looks after their two daughters, Sam and Liddie, and she appreciates that she is fortunate to have the “exhausting luxury” of staying at home with them. But she is a free-spirited character — after growing up in California with an outdoorsy lifestyle which matches her summery nature, it’s hard for her to fit into the expectations of small-town Idaho. She isn’t readily accepted among the coiffured army wives on the base and she finds it hard to relate to them, with their outwardly perfect lives and spotless houses. Continue reading

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Q&A with author Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend blog tour, plus author interview!

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is Katarina Bivald’s debut novel. First published in Swedish in 2013, it is now available in an English translation. Set in a small town in Iowa, it follows the story of Sara: a book-loving woman in her twenties who is invited to travel from Sweden to Broken Wheel by her elderly pen-pal, Amy. It’s a big adventure for Sara, who has never ventured outside Sweden except in the many books she reads.

But when she arrives in Broken Wheel, she discovers that Amy has recently passed away. In fact, she arrives almost smack-bang in the middle of Amy’s funeral. Despite this unexpected twist, Amy’s relatives insist that Sara stays in her house as planned; Amy would have wanted to show hospitality. So Sara stays in Broken Wheel, getting to know the town’s small population and meeting the people she heard about in Amy’s letters. And she quickly realizes that this decrepit little town, struggling to get by, is in dire need of a bookstore…

Katarina Bivald tells us more about the book, her writing process and her love of reading.

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Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore!

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Next week, I’m taking part in the official blog tour for the release of Katarina Bivald’s debut novel, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I’ll be reviewing the book and hosting a Q&A interview with Katarina.

Published by independent publishers, Sourcebooks, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is the #1 Indie Next Pick for January. To celebrate, Sourcebooks is running a sweepstakes contest for readers to vote for their favorite bookstore.

They will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize, and two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa).

To nominate your favorite bookstore, visit Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore sweepstakes. If you vote, you have a chance to win one of eight $50 gift cards! Voting closes on February 19, and entry is for U.S. residents only.

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Keeping Track of the Books You Read

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The Leeds Library, UK. Photo by Michael D. Beckwith. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

I enjoy lists. Yes, I’m one of those people who finds satisfaction in a well-ordered, neat and tidy list.  I find that even the simple act of writing things down helps me clarify my thoughts, and it frees up brain space because I don’t have to spend time worrying that I’ll forget something.

Perhaps you’re a list enthusiast too; I’d wager that a lot of people are. Why else would listicles (a word that, I have to say, makes me cringe a little) be so tempting and so popular on the internet? In a 2013 article from The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova writes about the reasons why our brains are irresistibly drawn to list-based articles. Continue reading

Books and movies to watch out for in 2016

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that reading books and watching movies are two of my favourite ways to rest, relax and recharge.

I love this quote from an Iranian woman photographed by the Humans of New York project:

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Books and films can transport you into different lives, different worlds, different possibilities. And reading a book or watching a movie you enjoy can be a real mood-booster too. The last movie I saw was Joy (here’s my review), and I felt great when I left the cinema.

We’re a week into the new year already, and 2016 has some exciting new books and movies in store. Last year, I wrote that I was looking forward to Far from the Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan and the adaptation of the Irène Némirovsky novel Suite Française.

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